LARAMIE, WYO. • For the second season in a row, Air Force will finish last in the Mountain West Conference.
The Falcons clinched sole possession of the league cellar on Tuesday with their 58-49 loss to Wyoming in front of an announced crowd of 4,526 at Arena-Auditorium.
Air Force fell to 9-19 and 1-14 in MWC play. The Falcons have won just one of 31 league regular season games the past two seasons.
“There’s an Air Force basketball tradition, and finishing last — it hurts, it hurts a lot,” said junior forward Tom Fow, who led Air Force with 17 points. “Especially because every single one of these guys in the locker room, including myself, we bust our tails every single day. And it’s just not happening for us right now.”
Wyoming snapped an eight-game losing streak to improve to 10-19 and 3-12 in the MWC, clinching eighth place in the league. The Cowboys also avenged a 70-63 loss to Air Force in the teams’ previous meeting. But the teams will meet again next week in the MWC Tournament play-in game.
Air Force held a 28-25 advantage on the boards — the first time in 15 conference games the Falcons have outrebounded their opponent — but had more turnovers (12) than assists (11) and made just 5-of-20 3-pointers. Air Force also squandered an 11-point lead it held mid-way through the first half.
Down 48-42 with 4 minutes to play, Air Force got a jumper by Fow and a 3-pointer by Evan Washington with 2:40 left to cut the Cowboys’ lead to 48-47. But after Wyoming’s Djibril Thiam hit a free throw, Air Force’s next three possessions were disastrous.
First, freshman Michael Lyons forced a 3-pointer as the shot clock expired that failed to hit the rim. Then, after a basket by Amath M’Baye put the Cowboys up four, Air Force turned the ball over following a timeout. Down 53-47 after a pair of free throws by Desmar Jackson, the Falcons committed another turnover.
Asked about the execution on those three possessions, Air Force coach Jeff Reynolds pointed to a pair of missed layups earlier.
“We wouldn’t have been in that situation if we’d made those shots prior,” Reynolds said. “And that’s frustrating.”